Reds ban Hunt for 6 weeks
Sydney - High-profile rugby star Karmichael Hunt was on Thursday banned for six weeks and fined Aus$30 000 (US$23 500) by the Reds following a drug conviction in a case that rocked Australian sport.
The 28-year-old, a former rugby league international who switched to Super Rugby's Reds from Australian Rules team Gold Coast Suns this year, pleaded guilty to four charges of cocaine possession.
As well his club fine, he was stripped of the Reds' vice-captaincy and ordered to pay Aus$2 500 by magistrates on Queensland's Gold Coast.
"Your offences will become well-known and be a disappointment to your legion of fans. Hopefully you will send a message that it is possible to learn from mistakes," magistrate Catherine Pirie said.
Hunt was originally accused of supplying the drug but this was downgraded to possession, with police alleging he arranged to pick up cocaine on four occasions from September 1 to October 3 last year.
At the time, he was employed by the Suns.
"It's been a difficult couple of weeks for me and my family," Hunt told reporters outside the Southport Magistrates Court.
"We're looking forward to putting this process behind us."
Hunt, who had been suspended by the Reds, where he was vice-captain, and barred from training with team-mates prior to the court appearance, received further punishment by his club.
"Each individual will have their own perspective and opinion on this issue and this specific case based on their personal life experience," Queensland Rugby Union chief executive Jim Carmichael said in a statement.
"In arriving at these penalties we have all been acutely mindful of our responsibilities to sport and the wider community, as well as the long-term interests of the game, our stakeholders and our fans.
"Karmichael has shown significant contrition and remorse throughout this process and rugby is now applying the rationale in its illicit drugs policy to ensure Karmichael receives the appropriate education and rehabilitation in advance of a return to the rugby field."
Hunt's lawyer Alastair McDougall said in court the facts alleged by police were not in dispute and his client had made "poor choices".
"He'll be paying for those choices for the rest of his life," McDougall told the court.
Police claimed Hunt purchased a total of 12.5 grams (0.4 ounces) of cocaine across the four occasions.
"He's taking ownership of his problem. This was, in his own words, a misguided post-season celebration," McDougall added. "He's suffered enormous economic loss.
"His two young daughters, with a third on the way, must grow up knowing their father has broken the law."
Eight current or former players from National Rugby League club Gold Coast Titans are also facing charges after a Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission investigation into a drug trafficking syndicate.